Donato Bramante the unsurpassed architectural genius

Santo Spirito. Semicircular arches of the nave and transept
Santo Spirito. Semicircular arches of the nave and transept

Donato Bramante the unsurpassed architectural genius of the High Renaissance

The work of Donato Bramante had a huge impact on the further development of European architecture, and his architectural masterpieces amaze with the splendor of forms. Unfortunately, there are many white spots in the biography of the genius master, even the origin of his creative pseudonym is still unknown.

Donato Bramante was not only a great architect, he also studied painting, music and poetry, but in these areas of art he achieved much less recognition. But in the theory of architecture, the name of the master, among other things, is forever immortalized in the term “Brahman window”, which is called a rectangular window opening with a semicircular top.

Donato Bramante. Antique warrior with halberd
Antique warrior with halberd


Donato Bramante (the artist’s real name is Donato d’Agnolo, Donato di Pascuccio d’Antonio or Donato Pascuccio d’Antonio) was born in 1444 in the town of Monte Asdrualdo (now this town in central Italy is called Fermignano). No reliable information about the parents and other members of the artist’s family has survived to this day.

Historians also cannot confidently answer the question of whom the future architect learned the basics of the fine arts. Donato’s possible teachers, with varying degrees of probability, include:

  • Fra Carnevale
  • Piero della Francesca;
  • Luciano Laurana.
Donato Bramante. Heraclitus and Democritus
Heraclitus and Democritus

Most likely, Bramante consistently studied and acquired practical skills from each of these masters in the city of Urbino until 1474. And then, at the invitation of the Duke Ludovico Moro (Ludovico Sforza, Lodovico il Moro), the young artist went to Milan, where he lived and worked for more than 20 years.

Initially, Donato Bramante in Milan showed himself as a talented painter.

Unfortunately, very few of the master’s frescoes have survived to this day. And his best student Bartolomeo Suardi later became widely known under the nickname Bramantino, which he chose in honor of his teacher.

By order of the Milanese ruler, Bramante also wrote sonnets and songs for the entertainment of the court. But already from 1476, after being appointed to the position of court architect, architecture became the main activity of Donato. He built churches not only in Milan, but also in other nearby cities, including Pavia and Legnano.

Donato Bramante. Nave, begun around 1419, Florence, San Lorenzo
Nave, begun around 1419, Florence, San Lorenzo

In 1499, the architect’s patron, the great Lodovico Sforza, was defeated in the war with France and was expelled from Milan. Having lost support, Bramante left the capital of Lombardy and went to Rome.

The pontiff, who entered the Holy See, was so impressed by the architectural genius of a mature master that in 1503 he entrusted him with the fulfillment of the most important order the complete restoration of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was Bramante who developed the grandiose project of the main temple of the Catholic Church, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1506, and the construction of this masterpiece was fully completed only in November 1626.

Orphanage (Ospedale degli Innocenti) in Florence. 1421-44
Orphanage (Ospedale degli Innocenti) in Florence. 1421-44
The Roman period was the pinnacle of Donato Bramante’s architectural career.

The works of this period are rightfully considered the best among those built by the great master. He managed to embody in stone the unique masterpieces of architecture of the Italian High Renaissance and forever preserve his name in the history of world culture.

Donato Bramante left this world at the zenith of his fame on April 11, 1514. The brilliant master of arts died in Rome, where he was buried with great honors. Unfortunately, his grave has not survived to this day, but there are numerous magnificent masterpieces created by this extraordinary person.

The most famous works of Donato Bramante
  1. Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan (1492-1497) this building is famous not only for its unique architecture, but also for the fact that the brilliant Leonardo da Vinci painted the magnificent Secret supper Palazzo Cancelleria in Rome (1483-1513) is a fine example of a stately building in the style of Italian classicism with characteristic bramante windows. This ancient palace houses the papal chancellery today.
  2. Tempietto in Rome (1500) a miniature chapel with ideal proportions and a majestic centric layout. This small temple was the first architectural masterpiece built by a master in the capital of Italy.
  3. St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (1506-1626) is a temple sacred to all Catholics of the Earth, a ceremonial center for the Pope’s worship. Bramante was the first to begin the grandiose construction of the cathedral, which was completed only 112 years after the death of the architect.
Pazzi Chapel_1429-circa 1461
Pazzi Chapel_1429-circa 1461
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